10 of the Best New Video Games for Kids
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Our boys have long shared my enthusiasm for video games, and as they’ve grown older I’ve impressed them with my “vintage” collection of consoles, from my Super Nintendo to my N64 (anyone up for Goldeneye?) to the original Wii platform.
Two Christmases ago, we gave them an Xbox 360, and last year they pooled their allowances to buy a used Nintendo Switch. These updated platforms help us keep up with modern games, and we’ve enjoyed many hours together as a family, especially playing great cooperative games. We also try to track new and upcoming games, and with the help of Jeff Haynes, Senior Editor, Web & Video Games for Common Sense Media, we’ve pulled together 10 of the best new video games for kids.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Pokémon is the beloved long-running game that’s spawned a small media empire. In the game, players capture fantastical creatures called Pokémon, train and equip them, then engage in playful duels with other players. The newest iteration of Pokémon released the spring of 2021, and hearkens back to Pokémon Snap for the N64. “Instead of catching them all in Pokéballs, why not capture them in photographs in their natural environments?” Haynes says. “New Pokémon Snap gives players a camera and leisurely task of getting the best shots of these creatures as they eat, play, and sleep.”
Platforms: Nintendo Switch; PlayStation 4 and 5; Xbox One, Series X and Series S
We’re fans of any game that gets us up and moving, and Just Dance does just that! Players familiar with previous Just Dance editions will find the 2021 version easy to learn, and it features favorite artists like Lizzo, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles, and Billie Eilish, with specific songs for the kid’s mode. Bonus: Just Dance 2022 is set to release on Nov. 4, 2021, if you are shopping for the holidays!
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Our boys looooove all things Minecraft, so we’re always looking for other games that engage that same sort of world-building exercises. Haynes suggests Dragon Quest Builders 2 for its ability to thread a storyline, quests, tasks and cooperative play throughout the Minecraft-esque creation experience.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Wii U
My wife and I spent many hours avoiding our grad school homework playing Mario Kart on the N64, and we’ve loved sharing the simple joy of the cartoonish racing on that platform, our original Wii, and now the Switch. Mario Kart 8 builds on all the beloved comic mayhem of the earlier games with more characters than ever, new tracks (including ones inspired by Excite Bike and The Legend of Zelda), plus a Smart Steering option to help rookie racers stay on course.
Platforms: PlayStation 4 and 5; Xbox One; Nintendo Switch
“This is a fantastic adventure on an alien world where players take on the role of a brave female explorer looking for answers about her sister’s death,” says Haynes. “Discovering the flora and fauna, uncovering the mystery and surviving the climate extremes are only some of the challenges that players will face in this intriguing tale.”
Platforms: Nintendo Switch; PlayStation 4 and 5; Xbox One, Series X and Series S; Microsoft Windows
We rank Knockout City as another hit from EA Games. The frenetic multiplayer game unfolds much like a classic round of dodgeball, although “you’ve never played a game of dodgeball like this,” Haynes adds. Working as a team, players launch balls that explode, turn into cages and other gimmicks – they can even throw other players in an attempt to knock opponents out.
Platform: Playstation 5
The latest chapter in this popular franchise brings together fan favorites Ratchet and Clank as they join forces with a cast of new characters to save the galaxy from an evil emperor. Haynes likes that this edition places a larger value on friends and helping others. “Loads of humor, wacky cartoonish weapons and eye-popping visuals drive the action here,” he adds.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch; Microsoft Windows; Xbox One, Series X and Series S; PlayStation 4 and 5
This multi-platform action-adventure roleplaying game was just released in the early summer of 2021. Haynes summarizes the compelling story behind it: “A young girl sets out on a nighttime adventure in her father’s incredible flying machine, but when she forgets to lock it back up, it’s stolen by a mysterious thief. This sets into motion a journey across the land, as players gather a group of friends to help track down the machine and set things right.”
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
“Ever wonder what Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Green Lantern would be like if they all went to the same high school?” Haynes asks. “Teen Power lets players explore the lives of these young heroes (and even villains like Harley Quinn) as they balance their school lives and superpowered activities on the streets of Metropolis.”
Platforms: Xbox One, Series X, Series S; Windows 10 PCs
This may skew more for the older kids, but our boys have loved this photorealistic racing game. Players can purchase cars, customize them, and dash across stunning landscapes modeled on actual locations around the world. One unexpected side benefit of the game: an eclectic soundtrack has led the whole family to new favorite songs. The fifth edition releases on Nov. 9, 2021.
Special thanks to Sabrina Chin, Director of Media Relations, and Jeff Haynes, Senior Editor of Web & Video Games for Common Sense Media, for their assistance with this piece!